Prospect of the Day: Melvin Gordon

Take a look at Melvin Gordon's college career at Wisconsin.

Wisconsin RB Melvin Gordon III
6'1", 215 lb.
Junior

Bio
Rated by Rivals.com as the 24th best RB in the nation
Rated by ESPN as top ranked player in Wisconsin as a senior (2010)
State Player of the Year as as a senior (2010)
Ran for 38 TD, 2,009 yards on 158 carries as a senior (2010)
Gatorade Player of the Year as a junior (2009)
Served as a summer intern at Merrill Lynch prior to final season at Wisconsin

Honors
2nd All-time single season rushing leader - 2.587 yards (2014)
FBS record holder for career rushing average - 7.79 yards per carry
Heisman Trophy Runner-up (2014)
Doak Walker Award Recipient (2014)
Maxwell Award Finalist (2014)
Unanimous, Consensus 1st Team All-America (2014)
Grange-Griffin B1G Offensive Player of the Year (2014)
1st Team All-B1G (2014)
Honorable Mention All-America (SI - 2013)
2nd Team All-B1G (2013)

Combine Measurements
Arms: 32 ⅜"
Hand: 9 ¾"
40-yd dash: 4.52 secs
Bench: 19 reps of 225
Vertical Jump: 35"
Broad Jump: 10'6"
3-cone: 7.04
Short shuttle: 4.07
Long shuttle: 11.00

Overall
After a stellar 2013 season, it seemed a foregone conclusion that Gordon would declare for the 2014 draft. At least, I thought that was the case. Once talking about the decision college running backs face when to declare for the draft, I compared a running back's football "age" to that of a dog. Canine's typically age seven years for every one actually lived or so it's believed. It's not quite that drastic, but a 30-year old running back that's started for years in the NFL feels way "older" than a wide receiver or tight end at the same age. My point was that running backs should "start their NFL clock" before the dog years kick in. Some defy nature and make it past 30; however, there's a reason that we don't see many 30 year old running backs in this league.

All of that brings me back to Gordon and his final year at Wisconsin. It actually helped him to go back to Madison, become THE bellcow running back, with no James White or Montee Ball to share carries, and show the NFL scouts that he has the capability to be The Horse. Was it enough to get him drafted in the first round? I'd be shocked if it didn't. Let's look at why.

Texans analyst and radio sideline reporter John Harris unveiled his top 100 prospects for the NFL Draft. (Photos courtesy of AP)

Quote
"Looking back, a lot of people probably thought it was the wrong decision and a lot of people thought I should have left. I feel I get better every year, and I felt like I was going to be a better player than I was last year. There were some things I wanted to achieve. I didn't get the Big Ten Championship, but I got the bowl game out of it. I think I became a better player overall, so I did the things I needed to do and I feel like this year was a success" - Gordon on why he returned in 2014.

What to like
--Burst to the second level
--Pass protection - he takes pride in stepping up and stoning blitzing linebackers
--Patient runner who learned throughout 2014 to allow his blocks to set up in front of him
--Vision is seemingly on a level beyond where he is
--Stutter and go move can completely freeze a DB in space
--Doesn't use a ton of moves in space, but when he does (spin, stutter and go), they're highly effective.
--Even when he does bounce runs to outside, his hips always stay square to LOS which allows him to burst downfield in a beat.
--Smart ball player too - late in Auburn game, he recognized that if he slipped out to flat instead of taking on blitzer he'd be wide open. So he did, QB found him for a five yard gain to set up 3rd and five, instead of QB having to throw it away to set up a 3rd and ten.
--NFL body - I saw him on the sidelines of the opening game v. LSU and I see NFL bodies every day. He'd have fit right in had he taken his Badgers uni off and put a Texans one on.
--He does love to bounce, but he's the one guy I've seen that has any chance to plant and burst upfield, beating perimeter defenders.

What needs some work
--Seemingly, first thought is to bounce to outside, even though he runs well between tackles.
--Didn't throw him the ball a bunch out of the backfield - absence of catches, though, doesn't mean he can do it, just means it'll take some work to be proficient.
--Although he'll run behind his pads, he doesn't break a ton of tackles.
--Rarely, if ever, sees cutback or cutup holes - stays true to play or tries to bounce
--Fumbled SEVEN times in 2014 and lost six of them, including a nail in the coffin scoop and score right before halftime of the B1G Championship game v. Ohio State
--A number of his longest runs were on jet sweeps/gun sweeps where he could get the corner, as such it won't happen with such consistency at the next level.

Projection
Assets and liabilities aside, one thing, more than any other, stands out about Gordon. Wisconsin has never had a great QB situation, other than the year the Wolf Badger Russell Wilson played one year in Madison. Other than that, it's been the next version of Darrell Bevell who started this string of handoff caretakers, so to speak, back in 1993. But, the 2014 versions of Darrell Bevell, Joel Stave and Tanner McAvoy, were probably at the lower rung of Badger signal callers. As such, the entire offense rested on Gordon's shoulders. Every. Single. Week. He faced eight and nine in the box with regularity and still beat a majority of those defenses. For example, Ohio State eschewed any other Badgers' offensive threat until it was third and long and then swallowed Stave and company whole.

Gordon should probably get drafted, no later, than the latter stages of the first round which should send him to a playoff team or one with a solid quarterback/offensive situation. Take one less guy out of the box. Put the focus on a TE or a gamebreaking WR. Then, hand Gordon the rock and see what happens. Even as the focus of every defense he faced, he still piled up 2,587 yards on the ground, the second highest single season total of all-time. First on the list is Barry Sanders. He did well in the NFL. Third on the list is Kevin Smith. He didn't have as much success at the next level. That said, Smith never had the juice that Gordon does. Is that enough? Certainly not, but it's a start.

A scout, the anonymous one who speaks ALL the time, said last week that Gordon and Todd Gurley won't make it past No. 20 in the draft. Gordon's got some work to do on his game as noted above, but it wouldn't surprise me if anonymous scout is right and he doesn't even make it to those playoff teams.

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